The Person Who Perseveres Until The End Will Be Saved
August 16, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
We Are Not To Give Up Hope
1. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." That's the title of today's sermon. They are the words from chapter ten and verse twenty-two of The Gospel According To Matthew which I read to you just ago. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." These words are also found practically the same in chapter twenty-four of this gospel. Even the word order appears exactly the same in The Gospel According To Mark. My hunch is that in the church in ancient times, it was memorized in exactly this way, and it was the words of Jesus which everybody used to say all the time. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." While they were saying it to each other, they probably [did it to] encourage each other.
2. We can easily imagine the situation in which these words were repeatedly spoken. As we also know, the faith does not necessarily grant one an exemption from suffering. The Bible never makes a promise such as "If you put your trust in Christ, you will never have hardships." That was self-evident whenever there were times of persecution; because, when [persons] expressed the faith, the reality was that they were inflicted with sufferings, which is not the way one would have expected it. Things went exactly as Jesus said in today's passage of scripture. [Situations] arose where [believers] were being handed over to local courts and whipped in synagogues. That is, [situations] arose where they had pain inflicted on them by the religious authorities. Or else, [situations] arose where they were dragged before governors and kings. Also, [situations] arose where they were tormented by the authorities of the imperial state of Rome.
3. However, the greatest suffering of all was perhaps when they had pain inflicted on them by family. The Lord even says, "Brother [will be] against brother, a father will persecute his child to death, a child will oppose and kill its parent," (verse twenty-one). In the times of persecution believers must have experienced these kinds of things practiced against them. Even more so than the persecution from state authorities, there is probably nothing quite as painful as being misunderstood and hated by one's loved ones. Furthermore, the more you witnessed, the more you were hated, which is the opposite of what you intended. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." Amid all this, they must have spoken this way to one another and given each other encouragement. And Jesus had spoken these same words.
4. The fact that [the scripture] says, "until the end," means that "there is an end." It has an end. It is not eternal. Persecution is not eternal. No suffering of any kind is forever. It is for a limited period. There is always an end. Just as a tunnel always has an exit, as the dawn always comes, there is always "the end." Therefore, we can also "endure." We "persevere." "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." What does it mean "to persevere?" Does it mean to have self-control even when suffering? No, it doesn't mean that. It originally comes from the word, "to remain." "To persevere" means "to remain." Where does one remain? You remain in the faith. "The perseverance" of which the scripture speaks means that. We are to remain in the faith.
5. Actually a word similar to this one can be found many times over in the Psalms. The Psalms were originally written in Hebrew, but in the Greek versions of the scriptures this word is used many times. Interestingly enough, in almost every case it is used as a translation equivalent with the meaning "wait eagerly for, wait in hope." It means to wait eagerly for the Lord. Like, for example, "Wait for the Lord, be brave, strengthen your hearts! Wait eagerly for the Lord," (Psalm 27:14). This "wait eagerly for" and the New Testament "persevere" are the same words.
6. Thus, "to persevere," "to endure," means to "wait eagerly for." We are to wait eagerly for the Lord. We are to wait in hope come what may. We are not to give up hope. We are not to despair. Remaining in faith, we are to live in hope, no matter what, we are to live in hope. "To endure" means that.
7. In that sense, from the beginning the church has put a value on [the exhortation] "to endure." We can see that because exhortations on "endurance and perseverance" appear repeatedly in the New Testament. Anyone who reads the scriptures often will probably have a ton of phrases come to mind right away. "Rejoice with hope, endure hardships, pray without ceasing," (Romans 12:12). "In order to receive what is promised and do the will of God, you need endurance," (Hebrews 11:36). And so forth ...
8. The church has constantly remembered that hardships are not forever. It has known that the end is in God's hands. It has known that God always is able to bring the daybreak. So, it has encouraged each other, it has remained in the faith together. While speaking to one another with: "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved."
In Order That I Myself Be Changed
9. Thus, the words Jesus had spoken have continued to live in the long history of the church and have continued to support the people. And now it is also being spoken to us. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." This is a message of hope. But, I am thinking on it another way. Why "is the person who perseveres until the end saved?" Why aren't [we] "saved now?" Why is there this period called "until the end?" Haven't you ever wondered something along these lines?
10. I would imagine that thoughts similar to these have come and gone repeatedly in the hearts of Christians who have been in persecution. How could the Lord have left us in such a condition? Why doesn't he just save us right now? How long must we persevere? Why must we persevere so long like this? Surely [your own] faith must have wavered with thoughts of this nature? As a matter of fact, about the time when The Epistle To The Hebrews was written, from which I quoted just ago, there seemed to have been folks that had stopped their meetings altogether. I'm sure it was precisely because of that very reason that [the scriptures] have spoken so much about perseverance and endurance and that [the scriptures] had given the exhortation that they were to encourage one another. As a consequence of this condition, therefore, the words of Jesus, like the ones I read to you today, needed to be passed on and communicated.
11. What possible meaning could the interval of time "until the end," the time period of perseverance, have? Does that long interval of time have meaning when it spans over a great length of time? Why aren't [we] "saved now?" When we think this, we are reminded of another set of words from the Bible. It is the words that Paul had written to the followers in Rome. "In this way then, since we are justified by faith, we obtain the peace between God [and us] through our Lord Jesus Christ, and thanks to Christ, we are led into this present grace by faith, and we boast in the hope in which we have a share in the glory of God. But that's not all, we boast even in hardships. We have found out [something]: That hardship produces perseverance, perseverance mastery, mastery hope. Hope will never deceive us; because through the Holy Spirit who is given to us the love of God is being poured out in our hearts," (Romans 5:1-5).
12. It says the space between God [and us] is peace. It [concludes] that God does not hate [us]. God has not abandoned [us]. God is not about to destroy [us]. The space between God [and us] is peace. God loves [us]. Therefore, what are hardships? It says hardship produces perseverance, and perseverance produces mastery. Put another way, through the perseverance produced during hard times, we ourselves are changed. Since it is put this way as "mastery," it sounds like a pretty huge change. We are changed in a great way.
13. We are always interested in our surroundings changing. But it seems that God is always interested, every time, not in our surroundings changing but in us changing. No doubt, even the believers when they were in the midst of persecution had wished that the Jews would change, that the Romans would change, that unsympathetic family would change. Every [Christian back then] must have had that wish once. But they also knew at the same time, above all else, that they must be changed. Just as Paul himself put it, he had a passionate yearning that [he] might become a person who resembled the figure of Christ (8:29). He even goes so far as to say that all things work together to be beneficial unto that purpose.
As The Sent Ones
14. Everybody [listen], aren't we the ones who must be changed first? And God is changing us. Hardships produce perseverance and perseverance produces mastery. There is where our hope also lies. Our own salvation also is found there, but it is also where we deliver salvation to someone else. To begin with, in today's passage, the reason Jesus is speaking about persecution and hardships is the disciples are to be sent out into the world. The Lord said, "I am sending you," (verse sixteen).
15. We are being sent. The church is being sent. To say that one is being sent means that we no longer exist for our own selves. We exist for the one who has sent us and also for the subjects to whom we are sent. We exist for the Lord and for somebody else's salvation. The church exists for the Lord and for the salvation of the world. The Lord uses us for the [miraculous] work of salvation. Just as Jesus puts it, if need be, the spirit of the heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit will speak through us. If God is ever going to use us, reveal himself to this world, and bring faith to it, first we ourselves must live in the faith. It is we ourselves who must first be changed.
16. "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." That interval of time called "until the end" is not some meaningless time that we must helplessly go through. It is a precious and priceless span of time, that has been given to us. It is an interval of time during which we are being changed into the likeness of Christ, and a time for God to use us [as we are being so changed]. It is the interval of time for God to work through us, the time when God uses us for the salvation of this world, for the salvation of others. It is not a meaningless period of hardships. It is not a meaningless period of tribulation. It is a precious time with precious meaning, within God's great plan.
17. Therefore, there is just one main thing we are to do. We are to persevere. We are to remain, to remain in the faith. We are not to absolutely and unconditionally give up hope. Come what may we are to wait eagerly for the Lord. And just as the church has been doing since olden times, we are to encourage one another and say this: "The person who perseveres until the end will be saved." That's what Jesus said, didn't he?